““[Bill Gates] has been historically one of my best supporters…One of my favorite e-mails he ever sent me…I proposed this crazy project. And he sent back this two-line response: ‘This has got to be the craziest thing you’ve ever suggested. Please proceed.’” ”
Aboard a relief flight to Haiti
A Honeywell corporate Gulfstream packed with medical supplies and aid workers flew to Port-au-Prince, Haiti, on January 18 to bring desperately needed help to survivors of the country's magnitude-7.0 earthquake. I was aboard to document the trip for Business Jet Traveler, having confirmed that I wouldn't take up space that could be used to carry supplies or aid workers and that I would be enlisted to help offload supplies in Haiti.
The flight departed Morristown (N.J.) Municipal Airport carrying 12,000 vials of ceftriaxone, an antibiotic used to treat pneumonia and other bacterial illnesses, and 1,440 cut-resistant gloves for help with rescue and recovery efforts. On board were medical staff and representatives from Operation USA, a California-based relief organization that has partnered with Honeywell's Hometown Solutions group in the aftermath of other natural disasters, including the 2004 Asian tsunami and the earthquake that hit Sichuan, China, in 2008.
Honeywell's government affairs department arranged for a slot reservation allowing the Gulfstream G450 to land at Port-au-Prince's airport and park on the UN ramp, where we offloaded supplies onto waiting trucks and said goodbye to three of our passengers who stayed behind in Haiti: Maxo Luma, a doctor and native Haitian now living in Vancouver whose sister and another relative were killed in the quake; Stefanie Dee Nieber, an Operation USA nurse from Los Angeles; and Steve Texas, a native Haitian living in Boston.
The flight crew for the trip included Honeywell pilots Dave Armstrong and Marc Lajeunesse and flight attendant Nan Kramer, as well as Honeywell mechanic Joe Acocella, who was on board in case anything went wrong with the airplane. Kelly Reed, Honeywell's director of corporate citizenship, and two representatives from Operation USA also went along on the flight.
Honeywell's Hometown Solutions group has committed to helping to rebuild in Port-au-Prince after the country's immediate needs are met. "We couldn't have done this without our partners at Operation USA and so many people within Honeywell," Reed said at the conclusion of the trip. "It's a wonderful feeling."
The flight was one of scores by general aviation airplanes bringing supplies to Haiti in the aftermath of its worst earthquake in more than 200 years. With scheduled airline service to Port-au-Prince's damaged Toussaint L'Ouverture International Airport cut, its harbor clogged with debris and the military relief effort spooling up slowly, business aviation was the answer for charity organizations looking for transportation into the country.
"The earthquake hit on January 12 and we immediately starting getting calls from people in all corners of the industry who wanted to help," said Dan Hubbard, senior vice president of communications for the National Business Aviation Association. In the first week after the disaster, more than 140 companies had offered use of almost 300 aircraft and nearly 150 pilots. Mercy organizations such as Corporate Aircraft Responding in Emergencies and Angel Flights also mobilized for the relief effort.
Look for a full report on the Honeywell flight and business aviation's response to the earthquake in our next issue.